|dc.description.abstract||This thesis examines the creation of several ex-service organisations during and shortly
after the First World War, the campaigns that preceded their formation, and the processes
that led to the amalgamation of four of them into the British Legion in July 1921.
Employing previously unutilised sources, it offers a new analysis of activities during the first
two years of the war, a period that has not been addressed, to any significant extent, by
previous scholarship in this context. Those activities were important as they led to the
founding of the first two groups, the National Association of Discharged Sailors and Soldiers
(‘the Association’), and the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and
Soldiers (‘the Federation’). These new bodies were quite different from traditional service
charities, in that they were democratic membership organisations, run by the members for
mutual support, and to press for better government treatment of them and their
This thesis also re-examines the period from autumn 1916 to July 1921, which saw the
growth of those two organisations, and the founding of two rival groups in particular, the
Comrades of the Great War (‘the Comrades’), and the Officers’ Association. The whole
process is also placed in the wider historical context of the development of what in recent
years has become known as ‘the Military Covenant’, that is to say, the special obligation
that has been observed to exist from the time of ancient Athens to the present day, for the
state to support and care for those who take up arms on its behalf, and their dependents.
While previous scholars have addressed aspects of the development of these groups, and
subsequent ones, from late 1916 to July 1921, there is much new information and analysis
here, with more complete coverage of regional developments across the whole United
Kingdom, and a number of their assumptions and conclusions are challenged. The major
sources employed in this study for the whole period 1914-21 are trades council archives,
the papers of James Myles Hogge, Sir Ian Hamilton, Wilfrid Ashley (Baron Mount Temple),
Lord Davies of Llandinam, Viscount (Waldorf) Astor, and the records of the Comrades in
Scotland and Northern Ireland, all of which have received little attention previously, in
relation to this subject. The approach is not that of a military historian, concerned with the
prosecution of the war, but rather that of the social historian, examining the conditions of
the millions of people who became service families for a few years, or veterans when their
service was over, of the claims their organisations made on the British state, and the
responses of the Government, Army, and Admiralty, to those demands. As such, it aims to
contribute to the study of ‘war and social change’, as developed by historians such as, in
particular, Arthur Marwick.
The main new findings are as follows:
• Trades councils’ campaigns on behalf of service families, and ex-service men and
women, from August 1914 to September 1916, were the foundation for their
creation of the National Association.
• James Hogge’s concurrent but independent campaign for the same groups, in
Parliament, in the Press, and through individual casework, from August 1914 to
spring 1917, was similarly the foundation for his creation of the National
• The two findings above, regarding trades councils, and James Hogge, are in contrast
to previous studies that focus on the period after autumn 1916, thus overlooking
the important roles their activities played in the founding of the first two
• The fundamental demand of the trades councils, Hogge, the Association, and the
Federation, was that these people should be supported by the British state as of
right, not by Royal Bounty, or by charity.
• Lord Derby, the War Secretary in 1917, is proven, with the help of newly discovered
archive papers, to have been a prime mover in the creation of the Comrades, with
the backing of the War Cabinet, and he largely succeeded in hiding his involvement
from the public.
• Hamilton’s scheme for an Empire Services League did not fail, as asserted by
Graham Wootton, because of opposition from the Association and the Federation,
but because Viscount Peel and Wilfrid Ashley (a leading member of the Comrades)
conspired to remove essential democratic principles from the proposed
constitution, thus rendering it unacceptable to those two organisations.
• The Federation did not abandon electoral politics after its disappointing results in
the General Election of December 1918, as asserted by Stephen Ward, but
continued its active involvement until the middle of 1920, when it dropped this, in
order to facilitate amalgamation talks.
• The creation of the Welsh Legion of Ex-Service Men in early 1920, not previously
recognised, was an important early demonstration of the benefits of
amalgamation, and a significant early use in the UK of the name ‘Legion’, as a
collective term for ex-service men and women.
• The failure of the Federation’s long-awaited deputation to Prime Minister Lloyd
George, in February 1920, along with plummeting membership and financial
reserves during that year, and the earlier launch of Haig’s Officers’ Association,
were major drivers towards the eventual amalgamation of the Association, the
Federation, the Comrades, and the Officers’ Association, as the British Legion.||en